Many churches have more space within their buildings than they can make full use of, and maintaining these buildings properly can be a burden. At the same time the shortage of affordable housing for local people is a huge problem for many communities in Cumbria.
Multiple housing units can be provided within a public building which seems fairly small. Most examples so far involve whole churches being converted to housing, with the congregation moving to another building. However a part conversion, with the rest of the building retained for worship, can also be considered.
See here for details of how Cumbria's faith buildings and land are being made available for affordable housing projects:
Two useful examples of how faith communities have not been able to overcome the challenges in creating affordable housing in their buildings can be found here:
Help is at Hand
If you would like advice on affordable housing, expert help can be found from various organisations.
Expert help can be found from various organisations including:
Cumbria Rural Housing Trust which researches the housing need in rural Cumbria and promotes affordable housing. They can offer advice on Community Land Trusts where communities set up their own affordable housing scheme (such as a project in Keswick which is using land from St John's Church). Contact: Judith Derbysire or Andy Lloyd at Redhills House, Redhills, Penrith CA11 0DT, telephone 01768 210 265/264.
Housing Justice is the national voice of Christian action for housing and homelessness. Their Faith in Affordable Housing website gives practical and technical information on affordable housing. Contact
, 22-25 Finsbury Square, London EC2A 1DX, Telephone 020 7920 6600.
(See also 'Housing to Meet Local Need' from Churches Together in Cumbria's Social Responsibility Forum)
The Faith in Affordable Housing initiative, has designed a guide to those considering selling underused church land and buildings and boost the supply of social housing for the benefit of rural communities.With guidance from the Charity Commission, the FiAH team has been able to demonstrate that, in appropriate circumstances, churches can accept below market value for their property and land. Technical information is brought to life through nine case studies in Faith in Affordable Housing's guide including the conversion of Ambleside Methodist Church and Troutbeck School for affordable housing.
At a recent conference (Oct 13, 2010) on Churches, Housing, Rural Communities both the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev'd James Newcome (right) and Rev'd Richard Teal, Chair of the Cumbria Methodist District (below) both spoke passionately about the churches' role in addressing key issues for rural communities including the lack of affordable housing.
Click here to read statement made by Alistair Murray of Housing Justice at the conference. Cumbria Rural Housing Trust, co-organisers of the confrence have more details on their website.
Affordable Housing is provided through Housing Associations. There are a number of Housing Associations active in Cumbria. Mitre Housing is a small Cumbrian Housing Association. It has close connections to the Diocese of Carlisle but works with all denominations. Mitre does not have its own website but you can view its annual report. If you wish to discuss a possible project you can contact the chairman, Ian Turnbull, on 01228 710261.
Other Housing Associations in Cumbria that have worked on church conversions include Impact Housing.